Flip-flopping through the campaign

As we read in this morning's Politico (McCain, GOP unleash anti-Obama plan) that the Right is coalescing around a unified message against Barack Obama, we simultaneously find that Obama is handing the "I'm just another politician from Chicago" issue to John McCain and the Republicans on a silver platter.

In this morning's edition of ABC News' "The Note", Rick Klein has the following to say about Barack Obama and his "evolving" positions:

Thursday's landmark Supreme Court may or may not have plopped gun control into the campaign. But it does place Sen. Barack Obama's careful, cautious, sometimes contradictory (and dare we say Clintonian?) approach to tricky policy positions squarely in the center of the race.

...Name your issue -- on trade, taxes, guns, the death penalty, campaign finance reform, FISA -- Obama may well be taking the politically smart position for a Democrat in these early days of the general election.

But the point is that he's taking positions that are at least shaded differently than those he's taken in the past, if not outright flip-flops. These are political calculations that make a dangerous assumption for Obama: that he's willing to risk being called a "politician" at all.

Obama's switch from being an "agent of change" to being an "agent of party politics and the status quo" really is remarkable. The one thing that Barack Obama has going in his favor is that as the primary season ended, most of the American public (aside from the media, political types, and their groupies) have pretty much tuned out for the summer (Gallup: Election Enthusiasm Dips After Primaries). So right now, there a better than even chance that large numbers of voters aren't aware that Obama has been flip-flopping on issues more than John Kerry ever dreamed of.

On the other hand, there's a risk for Obama if many of his supporters, especially those independents on the fence, start paying attention again to the campaign in late August only to find that the Obama of August 2008 is not the same as the Obama they thought they knew - that being the Obama of January - April 2008.

Look for the Obama campaign to work hard over the summer to cement the conventional wisdom and media meme that the Obama of "today" - on FISA, gun control, campaign finance reform, and several other issues that are popping up - is the same Obama that "we all" fell in love with over the winter.

An excellent example of certain parts of the media's complicity with Obama's plan is found in this morning's New York Times' article on the Supreme Court's Heller decision. In the 27th paragraph, Linda Greenhouse (didn't she retire?) states "Mr. Obama, who like Mr. McCain has been on record as supporting the individual-rights view, said the ruling would "provide much-needed guidance to local jurisdictions across the country."". As anyone who is familiar with Obama's previous claim that the DC ban was "constitutional", this is a transparent and subtle attempt by Greenhouse to whitewash Obama's changing positions. This is how Obama and his supporters are going to try to change the public record - by injecting Obama's new positions frequently into public discussion as long-time established fact, thus creating a substantial paper trail for the "change agent" to point to as proof of his unwavering commitment to static positions on various issues.

It will be up to the Republicans and the McCain campaign to continually offer proof otherwise, creating a substantial, alternate and more accurate conventional wisdom.